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All SELPAs have the same basic goal. . . to deliver high quality special education programs and services to the students with disabilities in the most effective, efficient, and cost effective manner practicable. In the early 1970’s a movement across the country resulted in the passage of important federal and state laws. The federal laws were PL 93-112 and PL 94-142. In 1987, PL 99 457 was passed which expanded services to infants. In response to the laws, legislation was passed in California which provides the legal foundation for a comprehensive plan in special education and requires local districts and agencies to establish Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) to address the needs of all children with disabilities. More about SELPA…
SELPA responsibilities include such things as:
- Ensuring programs/services are available for all children with disabilities
- Curriculum/Program Development
- Support Surrogate Parent Training
- Community Advisory Committee Support
- Management Information Systems
- Transition Planning
- Personnel Development
- Budget Planning and Review Evaluation
- Interagency Coordination
- Program Specialists
- Community Awareness
- Program Coordination
Currently, 44 school districts, 5 charter school LEA’s and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office as members of this SELPA. The Bakersfield City School District , Kern High School District and Sierra Sands Unified School District are three other SELPAs located in Kern County that are single district SELPAs.
All SELPAs and school districts are required to have procedures in place to help locate students who may need special education services. Any individual that believes they know a child that might require special education intervention may call the Search and Serve office or their local school district office and talk with someone about their concerns. There are many programs and services that are available to children that may have a disability and require specialized services to reach the desired outcomes.
Special education itself is not the only response to a parent concern. Typically, prior to a referral to special education/related services, programs in the general education program are considered and, when appropriate, utilized. Some districts use a Student Study Team (SST) for this process, but it is not required. Some of the general education interventions that may be utilized prior to referral include:
- Consultation with specialists and/or other staff;
- Modifications of the general program and/or accommodations for the student to facilitate access to the core curriculum;
- Utilization of general program resources (e.g. counselors, Response to Intervention (RTI), Title I resource programs; tutorials; English language development programs; migrant programs; reading intervention programs; 504 accommodation plans, summer school);
- Parent/guardian conferences; and
- Referral to appropriate community agencies.
If a student is ultimately referred, in writing, to special education, an assessment plan (often called a Consent for Assessment) will be developed in conjunction with the family. Parents will be provided with a Notice of Procedural Rights and Safeguards upon referral, and at other points during the assessment process. Once the assessment plan is agreed to and signed, the student will be assessed to determine if he/she meets the eligibility requirements to qualify for special education under one of the thirteen eligibility categories:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Established Medical Disability (Only for students between the ages of three and five years, inclusive)
- Hearing and Visual Impairments (Deaf/Blindness)
- Hearing Impairment (Deafness and Hard of Hearing)
- Intellectual Disability
- Language or Speech Impairment
- Multiple Disabilities
- Other Health Impairment
- Severe Orthopedic Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
Upon completion of the assessment process, the parents will be presented with the assessment results and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be held to determine, via the team, if the student is eligible for services. If eligible, goals and objectives will be developed and services will be determined based on those goals and objectives.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Public Law 105-17 defines special education as instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities. This is done at no cost to the parents. Special education can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals or institutions, or in other settings. As of the 2014-15 school year, over 6 milling children ages 3 through 21 (or 13% of all public school students) receive special education and related services each year in the United States. In California, during the 2015-16 school year, 734,422 individuals, newborn through age 22, received special education services. Each of these children receives instruction that is specially designed:
- to meet the child’s unique needs (that result from having a disability); and
- to help the child learn the information and skills that other children are learning.
What types of services are required for students with disabilities in elementary and secondary schools?
School districts are required to provide a free appropriate education to students with disabilities based on their individualized educational needs. The services may include special education and related aids and services such as occupational therapy, as well as modifications to the regular education program including adjustments in test taking procedures and adjustments to rules regarding absences when a student’s absences are due to a disability.
The IEP Team reviews each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) at least once a year to monitor progress and determine next year’s needs. Every three years, a complete re-evaluation determines a student’s eligibility and the need for continued services. The goal is always to have a student participate in general education without the need for specialized programs; however, if a student needs the services to progress or to receive educational benefit, then they will continue to be evaluated over time.
Can a parent contact SELPA directly if he/she has questions regarding special education services or placement?
Yes. The SELPA staff are always available as a resource to parents. Please contact us by phone at 661.636.4801 or by email at anytime.
The CAC acts in an advisory capacity to the SELPA and involves the parents and community in actively participating in the development, amendment, and review of the SELPA’s Local Plan for Special Education. A representative from each school district attends the meetings to discuss special education issues, share local concerns and activities and take information from the Community Advisory Committee to the district.
For more information contact Lee Knotts-Martin, SELPA Coordinator by phone at 661-636-4884
The Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is both a process and a document intended to assist families and professionals in a community in their combined efforts to meet the developmental needs of a young child from birth to age three with special needs. The guiding principal of the IFSP is that the family is a child’s greatest resource, that a baby’s needs are closely tied to the needs of their family. The IFSP may also identify services the family may be interested in, such as financial information or information about raising a child with a disability.
There are certain criteria for eligibility that the child must meet in order to receive services at this age. The two lead agencies responsible for the assessment for eligibility and for providing the appropriate services are: the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS). (Other agencies such as the Family Resource Network, Public Health, Social Services, and Head Start collaborate with these lead agencies to meet the needs of eligible children and their families.)
Within the Kern County Consortium SELPA, Kern County Superintendent of Schools provides some services to eligible children through the Early Start Program. An interagency agreement has been developed between the SELPA, the participating LEAs, and the Kern Regional Center. This agreement outlines the process that is used by the involved agencies for identifying, referring, assessing, and serving eligible children. Parents with concerns in Kern County may contact the Kern Regional Center or Search and Serve and they will be assisted through the referral process.
An IEP or an Individual Education Plan is developed for each child eligible for special education, based on the child’s unique needs, with parent participation.
The IEP should contain:
- a statement/description of the child’s present level(s) of performance;
- educational needs;
- annual goals & measureable objectives;
- accommodations/modifications to the general education curriculum and/or environment necessary to meet these goals/objectives;
- the specific special educational instruction, related services, and supplementary aides and services needed to advance toward attaining the annual goals/objectives;
- an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate with non-disabled students in the general education class, extracurricular, and non-academic activities;
- Accommodations/modifications needed to access state or district-wide assessments of student achievement so that the student may participate; if the student will not participate, reasons why the assessment is not appropriate and how the students will be assessed in its place (alternative assessment);
- The projected date to being the services and/or accommodations/modifications, including the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services or accommodations/modifications;
- Transition goals/services, course of study, and measurable, postsecondary goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments for students who are turning 16 years of age.
- Discussion of Transportation eligibility and need;
- Extended School Year eligibility determination;
- Any English language learning needs the child may have;
The IEP meeting should be a collaborative, positive experience for those involved and the focus should be on the needs and potential educational benefit of the student. Districts are required to serve students in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible, meaning spending as much time with non-disabled peers as is possible and still advance in the curriculum. To do this, the District offers the student a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) via the IEP and its components. The student’s IEP is reviewed at least annually; a meeting may occur at the request of the family or the school district personnel at any point prior to the annual review by making a written request.
While the vast majority of IEP meetings are not contentious and result in agreement on all the required areas of the document, occasionally disagreements occur. There is a process in the Kern County Consortium SELPA called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that is available to parents/school districts to help resolve such difficulties.
A parent who has a child that receives special education programs and services has additional rights and responsibilities outlined within the SELPA web site and the California Department of Education, Special Education, web site. Further, a parents’ rights are contained in the Procedural Safeguards available for download.
Students with disabilities may be suspended. Repeated suspensions of a student with disabilities may suggest that a child is not receiving appropriate educational services. If the student is removed for more than ten consecutive school days or is subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern, this is considered a change of placement. In determining whether additional removals of up to ten days constitute a pattern, the district must consider at least the length of each removal, the total amount of time the student is removed, and the proximity of the removals to each other.